Human-dog communication important in canine police operations, Charlottetown constable says

Const. Marc Periard and his canine partner, Dutch, are unperturbed by the snow and cold. Maddie Keenlyside photo.
Const. Marc Periard and his canine partner, Dutch, are unperturbed by the snow and cold. Maddie Keenlyside photo.
By Maddie Keenlyside
Feb. 7, 2014

Constable Marc Periard is no stranger to the world of dogs.
An RCMP police dog trainer since 1993, he has been working with the program’s German Shepherds for 21 years. One of 140 dog-handler teams across the country, he has been working with his fourth dog, Dutch, since May of 2013.
But all of the dogs he has worked with, Smokey, Farrow, and Lazer hold a place in his heart, he said.
“They all did good jobs and they were all good dogs.”
A regular member of the force for nine years before he started working with dogs, he started as a police officer. After that initial experience, if you show interest in the dog services, you can become a handler, he said.
“You have to be curious, adventurous, able to work long hours in extreme conditions, rain, snow and wind. A lot of my work is after hours. It’s when it’s dark outside.”
Some of the most memorable experiences Periard has had working with dogs involve helping people that are lost or confused – Alzheimer’s patients, or missing people, he said.
“When you find a person that’s been missing for a few hours or a few days and you find them alive, it feels pretty good, helping out.”
And the level of communication Periard has with his dogs is fairly high, he said. “There’s a bit of a language, goes on between him and I – but I know what he’s telling me because of repetition, consistency and training, and the years of experience.”
As an officer, you want your dog to have a bit of a mind of his own, he said.
“When it’s 3 a.m. and you know you’re chasing a fugitive, and he could be armed, you want your dog to do what he can to find that person and my job is to read the dog.”
But the dog can read him too. It can tell the difference between a call that involves a missing person versus a fugitive simply by reading him, he said.
“If the lights are going and the siren, and I’m talking on the radio a lot, he’ll know there’s some urgency in the matter. Versus, if I was going to a call and I take my time and dress appropriately, grab my GPS and my backpack and I go for a walk in the woods, looking for somebody that’s missing, the momentum changes. The dog’s attitude adjusts to my demeanor.”
Delicia Maynard, a canine behaviour analyst and professional trainer, said dogs are very capable because they are very good at observing and reading humans.
“If you look back at the history of dogs, you can see how dogs have always been around humans, learning what will work for them. So they learn us very, very well.
“When it comes down to a personal relationship with you and your dog, I know that even a look, a change in tone of voice – they’re very aware of and know exactly what that means.”
Periard said the dogs have taught him to live more in the moment and see what tomorrow brings. Dogs live for the moment, while humans hold grudges and sometimes sweat the small stuff, he said.
“They don’t. They just live for the moment. They do what’s been asked for them to do, and they just want to please. As smart as they are, they’re very simple animals. “They don’t have any judgment. They don’t care what you look like. They don’t care what you smell like. They just want to be with you. But you’ve got to build that trust.”